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Dislocated Elbow: What Happens Next?


A Rough Landing

“As I was falling, I put my right arm down to stop myself,” says Porter, who got hurt in May 2015. He didn't just dislocate his elbow. He also broke the bones in his forearm -- the ulna and radius -- and tore some ligaments.

“It’s natural to put your arm out to break a fall,” says David Marshall, MD, medical director for the sports medicine program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “But if you fall down on it with too much force, you can dislocate it.”

When a rough landing sends all your weight through your outstretched hand and up into your elbow, it can cause a turning motion that pushes and rotates the joint out of its socket. It’s most likely to happen in sports where it’s easy to lose your balance, like football, gymnastics, or wrestling.

The elbow is the second most commonly dislocated joint, after the shoulder. Still, it’s a fairly rare injury among the weekend warrior crowd.

It happens a lot less often than a dislocated shoulder, says John Green, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with UW Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. “The elbow is a pretty stable joint.”

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